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Abortion by prescription now rivals surgery for U.S. women

Oct 31 2016

Reuters Mon Oct 31, 2016

American women are ending pregnancies with medication almost as often as with surgery, marking a turning point for abortion in the United States, data reviewed by Reuters shows.

This comes amid an overall decline in abortion, a choice that remains politically charged in the United States, sparking a fiery exchange in the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016.

When the two medications used to induce abortion were approved in USA 16 years ago, the method was expected to quickly overtake the surgical option, as it has in much of Europe. But abortion opponents persuaded politicians and the courts in many states to put restrictions on their use.

But medical abortions have now risen to 46 percent of pregnancy terminations at Planned Parenthood clinics, USA’s single largest provider, in 2015. Among states with few or no restrictions, medical abortions comprise a greater share, up to 55 percent in Michigan and 64 percent in Iowa.

Approved in France in 1988, the abortion pill was supposed to be a game changer, a convenient and private way to end pregnancy. In Western Europe, medical abortion is more common, accounting for 91 percent of pregnancy terminations in Finland, the highest rate, followed by Scotland at 80 percent, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that supports abortion rights.

Reuters reported that “of the more than 2.75 million U.S. women who have used abortion pills since they were approved in 2000, at least 1 million got them at Planned Parenthood.” Where clinics are few and far between, Planned Parenthood is using video conferencing, known as telemedicine, to expand access.

In New York, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon, a private research institute, Gynuity Health Projects, works with clinics to send abortion pills by mail to pre-screened women.

"Medication abortion is definitely the next frontier," said Gloria Totten, president of the Public Leadership Institute, a non-profit organisation.

It was reported that the overall U.S. abortion rate has dropped to a low of 16.9 terminations per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2011, down from 19.4 per 1,000 in 2008, according to federal data. The decline has been driven in part by wider use of birth control, including long lasting IUDs.

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